The era of the shoulder-mounted camcorder has come and gone.
Yes, you can still find traditional camcorders for sale, but they’re declining in popularity because the alternatives are more portable and versatile. Consumer Reports offers this overview to help you decide which device to take with you on any given day.
What they do well: Your smartphone is usually right there in your pocket or purse, and it’s easy to handle. The large touchscreen is ideal for framing and composing shots. And an ever-growing catalog of features and mobile apps lets you flex your inner Martin Scorsese. Want a time-lapse video of an awesome sunset? No problem. A slow-motion clip of the bride’s flower toss? Coming right up!
Where they struggle: Smartphones have small image sensors, which tend to hinder performance in low-light situations. That makes it difficult to capture crisp video at night or in any indoor setting that’s not flooded with sunlight. And most smartphones don’t have built-in optical zoom lenses: The image just gets fuzzier when you try to zoom in with digital technology.
Action Cams ($100-$600)
What they do well: Rugged and simple to use, action cams let you record life from unexpected angles. Add some accessories and they can soar on drones, ride along on surfboards, and venture beneath the waves. Most offer mobile apps that let you adjust settings using a smartphone. They also store video files on microSD cards, which can be quickly replaced, so you don’t miss out on the action.
Where they struggle: Like smartphones, action cams are unimpressive in low light because they have small image sensors, Consumer Reports notes. They usually lack optical zoom, too. And they have limited controls. Unlike old-school camcorders, they don’t always have LCD screens to help with image composition. But you can rectify that problem with a phone app.
Digital Cameras ($250 to $400 for basic; $500 for advanced)
What they do well: Thanks to large image sensors and quality lenses, digital cameras – even $600 advanced point-and-shoots –allow you to snare very good video indoors and out, day or night, even under candlelight. That’s why the pros reach for DSLRs when shooting weddings and events. Certain models offer swiveling displays for composing hard-to-reach shots, most can accommodate memory cards with capacities as large as 512GB. Interchangeable-lens cameras can be outfitted with a variety of lenses that create shallow depth of field, panoramic views or a zoom powerful enough to capture the craters on the moon.
Where they struggle: Many have a 30-minute recording limit. And Consumer Reports points out that the bulkier they are, the more difficult they can be to hold without subjecting your videos to shaky-hand syndrome. Long lenses, especially, can amplify the effect of shivers, so these cameras often have some form of optical or mechanical image stabilization.
To learn more, visit ConsumerReports.org.
2017, Consumers Union, Inc.
Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication for UFS